How beers, babies and ‘booch led to a Helensville gem

November 2, 2018

‘The Awaroa Aperitivo’, ‘The Helensville Villain’, ‘The Kaipara Harbour’. These are the names of the cocktail list in Helensville’s local hangout The Kombuchery – Auckland’s first kombucha taproom.

Today, kombucha is synonymous with inner city living, despite its origins dating back thousands of years (221 BC to be exact). It’s ‘on trend’, and it appeals to the health-conscious consumers. Kombucha is rich in probiotics or ‘good bacteria’ which are best known for their ability to enhance gut health. But even in the heart of Auckland’s central suburbs kombucha in a cocktail, let alone in place of one, is as novel as a brunch-less Sunday.

“Kombucha has a place in social drinking,” says Liv McGregor. “It’s good when you’re not drinking and it’s good when you are.”

Liv is one half of The Kombuchery. She met her co-owner, Rene Schliebs, through her husband who set them up on a ‘friend date’.

“We had a lot in common,” says Liv. Both shared a passion for kombucha, craft beer and artisan food. “We had two babes each when we meet too, so naturally we bonded over beers, babies and ‘booch (short for kombucha).”

“We’d spent the last phase of our lives as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. The lack of non-alcoholic offerings was limited to water and coke or an overly sweet mocktail. It was a real shock. What grown-up wants to drink that? It quickly became apparent that there was a gap in the market for an alcohol alternative that made you feel special and part of the occasion.”

Fast forward a year and Liv and Renee launched their first commercial kombucha under the brand name Mama’s Brew Shop.

Mama’s brews are made from the finest tea and botanicals which Liv says is what separates their kombucha from other brands on the market. “Renee is a nutritionist and medical herbalist, so she has a real talent for mixing herbs and flavours. We’ve been able to leverage that to come up with some beautiful, grown-up flavours.”

In the beginning, the pair brewed kombucha in Renee’s garage in Helensville. Once they outgrew their humble origins, they took over the old Butcher’s Shop on Commercial Road and The Kombuchery was born. The pair drew inspiration from traditional beer breweries with a brewery out the back and a tap room out the front.

It’s not all kombucha though – The Kombuchery sells the standard café fare too, but with a twist. “Everything is local or New Zealand made by people we admire and who’re true to their craft.”

There’s Eighthirty coffee roasted on Auckland’s K-Road, cakes by “Janice who runs Food for Thought a few doors up”, Best Ugly Bagelsan Al Brown creation, Fix and Fogg nut butters hailing from Wellington, freshly baked bread from The Real Bread Project <link to Parkview article>, wine from the Hunting Lodge (“a local gem just up the road”) and craft beer from Hallertau Brewery and Liberty Brew Co.

Liv and Renee support the community as well as local artisan food and beverage producers. The Kombuchery takes part in the Suspended Coffee movement where patrons can purchase a coffee in advance for a stranger in need. Liv and Renee also recently donated to the Helensville Women and Family Centre – $1 per sale of their ‘Suffrage 125 Brew’, a limited edition rose and earl grey flavoured kombucha to commemorate 125 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.

Liv says that the Helensville community is like no other. “Our staunchest supporters are Helensville people, and the business community has been right behind us since day one,” says Liv; proving  ‘supporting local’ is a two way street in Helensville.

The Kombuchery has been described as a ‘sign of things to come’ in Helensville by various media outlets. “Helensville has changed a lot over the past five years. A lot of young families are moving here to get away from the hustle bustle of the city and because house prices are kinder here,” says Liv. “But they still want a good local with great coffee. Hopefully, this space with its beautiful food and drink is right up their alley and the start of something new for Helensville.”

Featuring on the Kombucha cocktail menu is ‘The Lady Helen’, named after the township’s namesake, Lady Helen McLeod. It’s a take on the classic Cointreau Fizz, mixed with Gypsy Kombucha – a delicious combination of star anise, juniper, cardamom and angelica. Lady Helen McLeod, the founding Mama of Helensville, would certainly approve.

The Kombuchery
54 Commercial Road

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